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Community Learning Day

Rain dripped from the eaves of the tent and a cold breeze rustled through the trees of the Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary. Yet, despite the dismal weather, the atmosphere at Leadership Victoria’s Community Learning Day this past Saturday was lively and engaging. The workshops, which were facilitated by Ian Chisholm, revolved around coaching and communication. These are critical skills for leaders that can sometimes be overlooked.


"The biggest mistake most leaders make is underestimating the impact of their conduct,” explains Chisholm. “The way I conduct myself creates an atmosphere in someone else.” A leader’s behaviour can foster belief and commitment among the people they work with, which in turn guides their actions and the subsequent results. Results reinforce belief, creating a cycle. “This can be a virtuous or a vicious cycle,” says Chisholm. When leaders strive to nurture belief in the people around them, they will achieve dedicated action and greater results. Conversely, if a leader fails to inspire belief, action will be lackluster and poor results can further erode belief. Learning how to turn this cycle to their advantage was central to Chisholm’s message.


Participants took part in two workshops. In the morning session, they explored how to create a trusting and supportive coaching environment. During an experiential learning exercise, they considered how leaders often fall back on encouragement, instead of focusing on information transfer, which can ultimately be more valuable.


During the afternoon workshop, participants took turns drilling their coaching and “supercoaching” skills, practicing guiding discussions, and giving and receiving honest feedback. Chisholm outlined a framework that could guide coaching sessions and encouraged participants to reflect upon their approach. Together, the group discussed their methods and tips, as well as what to avoid.


Over the course of the day, Chisholm fostered an open, collaborative atmosphere and posed a number of thought-provoking questions for the participants. He asked them to consider, “How do I create safety during coaching, but remove comfort if that’s necessary?” and “How can I be the kind of leader who stirs self-belief in the people around me?”


Saturday was the first Community Learning Day for the present cohort, with others to follow over the coming months. Chisholm says he’s glad they explored this particular topic first. “When people learn to coach others, they become easier to coach. They’re more open to feedback. They realise that when someone asks me a hard question, they’re not criticizing, they’re aiming to help me dig deep into something.”


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